Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


10 Years!?!?!?

Turns out I was so not ready to go hunting that I didn't even have spare time to type up an 'I'm outie!' post. 

My first 48 hours up on the hill were no good.  I hunt in wide-open sage brush country, and Friday afternoon, we had a front pass through...temperature didn't change much, but we did get some scattered rain, and wind....25 sustained with 40 gusts.  Truthfully, I'm impressed that my little tent didn't blow away. 

Even though it didn't blow away, it was not a pleasant place to spend the night.  The shaking and wildly whipping sides of the tent made it a loud home.  Add in the fact that my air mattress had a leak in it, so, after two hours I was sleeping on a rock...well, I think I got about three hours of sleep Friday night.

Saturday, opening day of the season, was anti-climatic. I hunted the same are where I saw two bucks and a few does consistently last year...but this year, nothing.  One doe for 13 hours in the field.  And it was still a breezy, drying out kind of day.  Sucked the moisture out of you with a steady breeze and highs around 80.

Sunday was better.  Had a full nights sleep with a new mattress I ran into town to buy. And I saw 4 does in the morning.  In the afternoon, I went and kind of checked out a new area.  It's a place I had been to before, I just went 'one more ridge' over...and it was worth it.  I found a draw that is actually a creek for a few weeks each year, and might even have a little natural 'seepage'.  Enough that there were actually green trees growing. Which, as you can tell from the picture above, is not common. 

One of the frustrations with muzzle loader hunting is that unless you sit down on a specific game trail, you can usually see more area than you can hunt.  In this case, I picked a position that let me see several draws and ridges, so I could get a good idea of animal traffic around the hole. 

I was pleased.  Within half an hour, I had seen 4 does leave the area.  Then 2 spike bulls(all I am allowed to shoot), came in together, loitering about 250 yards down the creek bed from where I was. After about 40 minutes they headed off.  Then about a half-hour before the sun stated setting, another group of elk, 5 cows and a nice 6x6 bull showed up. 

So...I'm excited to try to get back in there, picking a better spot I where I can hopefully get a shot.  200 yards is just too far for me and my muzzle loader.

I haven't gone back in yet because I came home Monday for a break.  Needed to refill the cooler, and shower...and wish my daughter a happy birthday.  It is my younger daughters bad luck that her birthday ends up being early in elk season. I have missed 5 of them in a row...so this time, I decided I would come home for it. 

It was a good decision(even if Sterling's is her favorite restaurant.)

Worst case, I get back into that hole and find a boned out elk carcass...but, I didn't see any other hunters on the ground within a mile or two of where I was hunting, so, it was a chance worth taking. My little girl isn't going to turn 10 again.


So not ready.

ARGGHHHHH!  The opening morning of muzzle loader deer and elk season is 48 hours away, and I am so not ready.  I've only made one real scouting trip this fall, hiding behind the rationalization that I am heading right back into same area I hunted last year, where I actually saw more animals than I thought I would...I just couldn't get close enough for a shot.

Anyway, where I feel not ready is my organization.  Usually I have all of my rubber made totes of gear all sorted out and packed by now, ready to throw them in the bed of the truck.  This year, I'm still cycling stuff through the laundry and counting out pairs of socks and underwear. 

My expectations are tempered this year.  I didn't draw any special tags this year, and this is the first year that deer and elk overlap in this area.  I am limited to shooting either a spike elk, or a 3 point or better buck.  The first day or two, I'm planning on focusing on deer.  Based on what I saw last year, AND historical reported success rates, the chances of getting a legal buck are 25%, vs. 6% for a spike bull.

Then there is the weather, which is going to be 'unseasonably warm'.  Day time highs 75-78, overnight lows in the mid 40's.  From the 'camping' side...that's nice.  From the go out and spend all afternoon walking...well, I see a lot of still hunting on the shady side of the draw.  Also means you can't dilly dally on getting an animal broken down and out of the woods.

Still, either way, it's always nice to get out in the woods. 


Crash and burn.

Several times over the last few weeks while cruising around on foodgawker, I have seen pictures of a delicious looking Magic Custard Cake.  Tonight I finally tried making, following this recipe. 

I think I did something wrong. 

It's supposed to look like this:

What I got was this:

I'm not sure what I did wrong.  It was supposed to bake for 40-50 minutes. I left it on the oven for 100+ minutes, and it never set up.  I'm curious if maybe the eggs are to blame.  I used the eggs from my chickens...and it's possible that maybe our 4 eggs are equal to 6 'normal' eggs. 

Who knows.  I guess I'll try again in a few weeks. 

Sooooo disappointing.  I belong on a pinterest fail board...


First one of the year.

Some people mark the start of fall by drinking a pumpkin spice latte, but for me, it's the first pumpkin beer.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.  Very good dark ale, with very little pumpkin flavor(which is usually for the best), although there is some brown sugar and nutmeg to contribute to the 'fall' flavor.


20 years, and it is still great.

Twenty years ago today, the movie Se7en premiered.  If you haven't seen it...where have you been for the last 20 years?  Do yourself a favor, and track it down. It's available through Amazon Prime for $4, and I think you can get it from Netflix through the mail. 

It's a great movie.  One of the best movies of the past 20 years.  Would make my top 20, and maybe even my top 10 list over that time period.  The acting is superb...Brad Pitt before he was ACTOR Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow in a roll where she seems like a real human being, and R. Lee Emery as the Police Captain.

It shouldn't work.  I mean...it's an out there idea, and then, it has plenty of clichés...Old Tired Wise Cop paired with new Firebrand Cop...Criminal out Thinking The Cops all along, Newly Married Couple Move to the City...just...yeah...nothing unusual there...but, the story and the script work so well.

I don't want to say too much, on the very off chance that someone has actually somehow not seen this movie.  If you stayed away because you 'don't like police procedurals'...fear not.  This is not a police procedural.  This is not a Buddy Cop movie. 

This is a masterpiece. 


Another Wine Club.

Went and visited my mom this weekend.  As they approach retirement age, my mom and step-dad are starting to bat around the crazy idea of potentially packing up and moving to Florida for all the reasons everyone retires to Florida.

I think it's a bad idea.  I spent 18 months in Orlando for the Navy, and there is no amount of money you could throw at me to convince me to live in Florida.  Neither my mom or step-dad have ever spent longer than 6 days in Florida, but gosh-darnit, the internet says it's a good place to live. 

Puts me in a tough spot.  I don't think it's a good idea, but...my mom and step-dad have made it to their mid-60's without running their decisions by me or my step-sister.  You can only push fellow grown-ups so hard before you start alienating.  My wife has convinced me that my usually snarky response to something I don't approve of is the wrong approach to this situation.  Instead, we are showing them what they will miss.  Mostly, their grand daughters. And wine.

So, we took my mom out Wednesday to check out the Warehouse Wine District in Woodinville.  Since Chateau St. Michelle went into Woodinville in 1976, the area has turned into the main winery area in Western Washington, with two main 'districts' the Hollywood School District and the newer Warehouse district.  Not much wine is actually grown in this area...almost all of the grapes are imported from the Columbia Valley...but you are probably looking at 120 wineries with tasting rooms in Woodinville.  You could give me two weekends a month and I'm not sure I could get through all of them...especially when you figure in 3 breweries and two distilleries. 

Heck, I'd go broke even trying.  We only went to 5 wineries and one brewery this weekend, and I still almost went broke.

We didn't buy something at every stop, which is an improvement in my will power...and I bought the 32oz growler from Dirty Bucket Brewing Co. empty because I knew after a day of wine tasting I wasn't going to feel like more beer, and I didn't think it would survive the drive home in drinkable condition. I really liked their Naughty Autie ESB.

Of the wineries we went too, one made a real impression on my wife and I...Page Cellars.  We liked them so much we actually decided to join their wine club.  One of the nicer things about a smaller winery though is that their wine club obligation is not too over the top either...two bottles, three times a year.  My mom belongs to a larger winery that obligates you to 16 bottles a year(and they are closer to $50 a bottle than $30 a bottle). 

It was a good time.  I'm no sure it was enough to convince my mom not to move...but in case it wasn't, it doesn't hurt to build some more memories. 


That was pain free.

Yesterday, instead of going to work, I headed down to the Kennewick Justice Center to take my turn at Jury duty.  It was about the easiest time meeting that obligation that you could possibly have. 

I showed up at 8, and by about 8:15 they had all of the potential Jury Members seated in a big room, waiting.  At 8:30, one of the clerks came in and called out 15 names to head down to the district court rooms, where we were put in another waiting room, and told that at about 9 we would be brought into the court to start Jury Selection, so...take this chance to use the rest room and get something to drink.

At about 8:55, the judge came into the room and said that the lawyers worked out a deal, no trial was going to be needed, and thanks for coming in and fulfilling our obligation.

Sweet.  I wouldn't have minded sitting on a trial, if it was only a day or two.  Let's face it...no one wants to end up on multi-week/month trial, but...it's nice to have a little refresher of how the legal system actually works.

Still, I'm happier with my deal than the folks who had to sit there until 10, before being told they could go home, but please call back Wednesday for an update on when they had to physically come back in. 


Oy vey.

Shortly after moving into our current house, I planted a few fruit trees...two plum, and two apple.  At one point this year, it looked like I was actually going to get a decent number of plums off one of my trees, but a heat wave and a wind storm put the hurting on the plums just as they were starting to fill out...leaving me one little apple on one of my trees.

How Cute.
So.  With yesterday being Rosh Hashanah I had decided I was going to make an Apple Honey Cake recipe for desert.  While we are not practicing, we do want to teach the kids something about the Jewish part of their heritage, and so...Apple Honey Cake covers the Jewish tradition of celebrating the new year with something sweet and blessed. 

I screwed up.  After the little cake jars had been in the oven about 15 minutes, I opened the oven to check on them, and noticed they hadn't raised very much.  All of the sudden, I realized that I couldn't remember taking either the baking soda OR baking powder out of the cabinet.  Gosh dang-it.

Yeah, they should have risen over the top of the jar.  Sensing my distress, my wife ran to the store and bought some vanilla ice cream.  Not sure what the Torah or Talmud say about vanilla ice cream, but I say bring it on. 

The flavor was actually pretty good, and I will have to try making these again with the right ingredients.  This method they did come out a bit floury, but the flavor was good, and the vanilla ice cream cut the floury taste pretty well.


I used to like grapes.

Thursday, my wife headed out to pick some grapes with the kids.  A friend of a friend has a bed and breakfast with a few acres, including some concord grapes.  My wife had a deal she didn't feel she could turn down: 25 cents a pound.  Only catch was there was a 60 pound minimum. 

No problem...off she ran with a few of our big Rubber Made totes, and started picking with the kids, figuring those two totes would add up to 60 pounds.

She was wrong...those two totes added up to 135 pounds. 

It more than she planned on coming home with, and since then we have made several trips to the store for MORE JARS!!!!!

Luckily she has a friend with a steam juicer, or I wouldn't have been able to sneak out of the kitchen yet long enough to post this.  The first night, we started the old fashioned way...placing grapes in a sauce pan, adding some water, then mashing and boiling them for half an hour before straining them.  We did 4 quarts of juice that first night in 3-4 hours worth of work. 

The steam juicer was not as fast as I pictured it being, but it was faster than the smash and boil method, and a LOT less work.  I helped through out the evening, but my wife stayed up until 2:30am, finishing the last 40 pounds herself.  All total, we got an additional 31 quarts using the steam juicer. 

I think close to 80% of this is going to go in the pantry as just juice, with the other 20% being turned into jelly as I type this. 
The last two quarts my wife did she put in the fridge in one of our pitchers, so I got to have some today...and it's pretty good.  When buying from the store, I prefer white grape juice...it's more refreshing.  This stuff though...I'm not sure I would grab a glass when I came in from mowing the lawn on a hot day, but, as part of a 'complete balanced breakfast'...yum, yum.
And yes, a steam juicer is now on the Christmas list.



So, each year, the company I work for has a 'morale' fund budget. Usually, this goes to t-shirts or other goodies for the work groups, and the occasional sponsored feed.  My group still had a few hundred dollars left to spend before the end of the fiscal year, and so, a cookout it was.  We have a Traegger at work, and so, I have been the primary cook at feeds before, but, typically, it's burgers/dogs, and maybe chicken...because that is cheaper to buy with the money folks chip in. 

This time though, with the budget we had left, it looked like we were going to be able to afford actual beef.  Maybe not Prime Ribs, but it looked like we would be able to swing Tri-Tip.  I've never really worked with tri-tip, but I've got a reputation to live up to, so, I started planning. 

Cash and Carry had two options for tri-tip, untrimmed, or 'peeled'.  Wanting to save money, I bought a 12 pound bag of untrimmed to see what I was getting into.  The 12 pound vacuum sealed bag had three separate roasts in it...and by the time I had trimmed off the fat cap and silver skin, I was left with 8 pounds of meat.  Redoing the math showed that going the 'peeled' version would probably be cheaper, and it was. I bought a 19 pound bag of peeled, and it had 6 roasts, and I only lost 22 ounces when getting silver skin and stubborn fat/gristle off.

That gave me 9 tri-tips totaling right around 26 pounds, and I'm not sure the Traegger could have handled one more.

Because I knew the lid was going to be open for a while, and Traegger's lose heat bad, I started out at 325, and kept it there for 15 minutes, before dropping the temp.  They cooked way faster than I thought they would, and for the next two hours, I alternated between 180 and 'smoke' setting.  Right at the end, since I still had to do some chicken and corn, I cranked the temp up to high, so, the tri-tip got a last little shot of heat. 
In the end, I'm going to say that the meat came out a little more done that I would have preferred at home, but, with slightly different weights(and even having 4 thermometers), it seemed safer to go to 145ish than 135ish.

I was actually very surprised how moist and juicy the meat stayed, especially once I saw how lacking in pink it was.  And the flavor...yum.  I had rubbed the meat Monday after cutting them up with a rub based around brown sugar, salt and garlic powder and cumin, and love. 

Best of all, I didn't even cut into two of them roasts for lunch, so after lunch, I was slicing them as thin as possible, day dreaming of sandwiches for lunch Thursday. 


One Party After Another.

This weekend, one of my friends had her 40th Birthday Party.  It was a good time, and a sizable party...probably like 40 people. 

Rather than an actual gift, we were supposed to bring something based on our last name...either cheese, chocolate, or beer.  We were lucky, and got the beer category.  Since anyone can just bring beer, my wife wanted to try something she had seen on pinterest.  It's so easy for things to go south when you are using pinterest as a guide...but my wife is better than most. 

As much as I like beer, I still think I would prefer a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting. 


One heck of a shindig.

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to a Masquerade Party being held as a fundraiser for one of the local performing arts groups.  The theme of the party was 'An Evening in Rivendell', and the dress code called for either Elven/Hobbit costume, or formal dress.  I decided that I would split the difference, and give the Full Dress Kilt look a try.

The kilt, shoes and hose were mine, and I originally had thought I was going to be able to wear my tux jacket...but, man...I always forget how high my kilt fits.  Instead, I had to go on the internet and rent a Prince Charlie jacket and vest.  How cool of a world do we live in that I can go on the internet to Atlanta Kilts, and within a week have what I need in the mail? It wasn't cheap, but I think it was worth it. 

Of course, I already had the best accessory in the world at the house with me.

It was a nice night.  All the local arts groups put on performances, and there was beer and wine and munchies.  And pretty girls in pretty dresses.  As I expected, the masks didn't last all evening.



Got the bug.

I tend to do my canning in clumps...and right now, we are at that time of year when produce is cheaply available, AND it is finally starting to cool down enough in the house that it doesn't feel suicidal to steam up the kitchen(although, people at spas would pay good money for the kind of pore cleaning vinegar facial I gave myself this weekend.

First, I made a larger batch of candied jalapenos...5 pints and then three left over jars of Dragon Juice, vs. the 6 half-pints I made the first time.

After that, I had to finish doing something with carrots that came out of the garden, so I chopped up some zucchini, and peppers and cauliflower, and made up a batch of Jardinière...9 pints.  That's where the vinegar facial came in. 

I'm sure I will find something to can over the upcoming four day weekend...maybe I'll have the kitchen cleaned before I start again.


Close my eyes and count to 10.

Because of my involvement and interests in the local performing arts community(and my upbringing in the Seattle Suburbs), a fairly large percentage of my friends on facebook have different, more traditionally liberal political leanings then I do.

This morning, when I jumped into facebook, this was the first post I saw.

Because it's early, and I haven't given up on fighting loosing battle with people who are already set in their belief's, I responded.

'Wrong...it was over when the Bill of Rights(including the 2nd Amendment) was ratified on December 15, 1791.'

I'm looking forward to a day at work with my phone reminding me how bad of an idea it was to try to express my own opinion.


Oh my...these are going to be worth the work.

While I had plenty of home grown tomatoes, carrots and tomatillos for my canning and sauce making needs this weekend, I had to pick up some jalapeno's for heat.  Cash and Carry had a 5 pound bag, so, yeah...I had some leftover jalapenos to do something with.  I'm not the biggest 'Bring on the heat!' guy, so, I thought this candied jalapeno recipe looked interesting. 

On paper, the liquid to sugar ratio looks daunting.  I made a 150% batch, meaning I needed 3 cups of cider vinegar, and NINE cups of sugar.

I didn't expect how much the volume of the jalapeno's would be reduced by cooking them.  I thought I was going to have a huge amount...but after the softened and shrunk a bit, I only ended up with 6 half-pints of peppers.

The good news is that I followed the hint that was included in the recipe, and I canned up another 3 half-pints of the left over Dragon Juice Syrup.  It is supposed to be the bomb as a glaze on chicken, beef, or pork.

I tried a pepper or two that didn't fit in the jars, as well as licking the spoon I had been using to stir everything. 

I think both these peppers and the syrup are going to be really, really, really good. 


Didn't see that coming.

The other day, we emptied all the carrots out of one of 4 X 4 garden beds, and ended up with about 10 pounds of carrots.  I didn't feel like just canning up 'carrots' so I took a look at the Ball Book of Canning and decided to do some End of Garden Pickles, and some Carrot Pepper Salsa.

The carrot pepper salsa is a little misnamed.  It's sweeter, and from tasting it prior to canning, it's more of a relish than a salsa.  It will go good on burgers and dogs. 

The End of Garden pickles, I made as an alternative to the giardiniera I made a few years ago.  I'm thinking I should have just stuck with the giardiniera.  It never dawned on me that the brown sugar you add to the cider vinegar would make it look like the vegetables are in a beef broth instead of a nice pickling brine.  I'm afraid it might be a case where you end up eating with your eyes, and now matter how good they might come out tasting, they are going to look kind of creepy.

We'll find out in a few weeks, I guess. 


Let's Do the Timewarp Again!

It wasn't intentional, I swear.  I didn't mean to stop blogging for like two months. 

As Roland Deschain would say, 'I Cry Your Pardon'. 

I knew things were going to be getting busy while my wife and kids were out of town...just not as busy as they really got.  Plus...trying to think about the real world...it just has been tough to get too worked up about anything.  It's easier not to think about Donald Trump too much. 

Heck...it's not just my blog I've been ignoring...I don't think I have read anything on my sidebar for 6 weeks.  At least. 

But hey...I'm back.  Recipes, garden updates, hunting season rapidly approaching...and the 2016 Presidential Campaign. 

At least the recipes should be worthwhile. 

For now...you are going to have to entertain yourself with this picture from the Rocky Horror Show.  The makeup was interesting...but it was worth it. 



So Alone.

Well, I'm all alone for a while.  Yesterday my wife and kids got in the care and headed east...WAY east.  With family spread all the way from Virginia to Boston, she/I decided that rather than try to fly her and the kids east, and then plan rental cars and trains to get from family group to family group, she would just drive.  Our kids are pretty good in the car, and she was actually more excited to drive than she would have been to fly. 

I am terrified. I am terrified of the things that happen to mothers and their cute daughters in Hollywood Movies when they are at isolated rest stops, or staying at the Motel 6 outside of Spearfish South Dakota. 

My wife isn't worried about those things. She is focused on the positives of the cross-country trip, and the opportunities it presents to visit friends, and continue the home schooling process through the summer. 

She already had a chance to do both of those things.  The first day of the trip was a short one...just over 6 hours to stay with some friends in Missoula, Mt.  These are friends that used to live in the Tri-Cities, and we used to do a science co-op with, and so they decided to continue the science theme. When my family rolled into their house yesterday, our friend Jen pulled out a few Mail Order Frog Dissection kits that she had ordered for the kids.

That is a 100% real smile on my daughters face.

I am going to miss them a lot over the next month...at one point I told my wife it would be cool if she was back by the 4th of July since I have a 4-Day weekend...but, I have since changed my story.  As the list of things she wants to stop and see grows I told her not to worry about time.  She is never going to get another chance to do this with the kids...I would rather she comes home a few days later than planned instead of having her come home on time, and then have her talk about things she wished she had been able to see.


A night at the Symphony.

For their final performance of their 70th Anniversary season, the Mid Columbia Symphony was performing Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  They also performed it at their 50th and 60th Anniversaries, so...with the assumption that it's an every 10 year event, you should probably go when you get a chance.

To someone who is not into classical music, just calling something Beethoven's 9th Symphony will probably cause them to have a blank face.  Saying 'Ode to Joy' might get more reaction, but in truth, the Ode to Joy is really only 10 minutes or so of an hour-plus 4 movement symphony.  But, it is one of the most recognizable pieces of music out there.

I make it sound like this was a voluntary attendance event, which I guess it technically was, but since the Mid Columbia Master Singers(with some augmentation from the chorus at Columbia Basin College) was providing the vocal support, I kind of had to be there.  My wife, well...she got to decide to go, but I would have pouted mightily if she hadn't gone.  And she would have missed one heck of a show. 

As I said, the Ode To Joy is only a small part of the 9th Symphony, but the 20 minutes of singing we do in the 4th Movement is...quite a rush.  If you listen to whole piece of music above, which is half the 4th movement...the pace is cooking, and for a tenor it's high, loud and long.  There is not much difference in my pulse between doing 20 minutes of this, or 20 minutes on the elliptical at the gym. 

The nice thing about singing with the Symphony vs. singing in Cats was that call time for the Symphony is only 30 minutes before we go on, instead of 2.5 hours before we go on, which means I can get dressed and head out the door as the same time as my wife. Heck, it felt very much like a date where I just got to do some fancy-ass karaoke.  It also gave us a chance for a nice dress-up picture.


Fresh is good.

Yesterday while puttering around in the garden, I noticed a bunch of little white flowers on my peas, and today, when I looked closer, I saw that those flowers must have been there for a few days, because I had a bunch of peas ready to harvest.

All told, I got about half a pound of snow peas from this first little harvest, and man, were they good.  I put my daughters to work helping pick them, and when I told them each to pop one fresh off the plant into their mouths, they looked up me very dubiously, until they took their first bite.  My younger daughter said she didn't know a green vegetable could be so sweet.  The variety is Oregon Sugar Snow Peas.

There was more than enough there for a nice side dish, which I made by just sautéing the peas real quick with some sesame oil, shallots and garlic, before adding a few dashes of lemon juice at the finish.

Really, really good.  I will remember to do this variety again next year(heck, maybe I'll even shoot for a fall crop of them).  My only issue with the snow peas though, is that they are..dumb compared to the runner beans I did last year.  With the runner beans I only had to start on the trellis once, maybe twice.  These peas are all over the place, and I need to go out every three or 4 days to train them onto the twine. 


Finally Recovered

Big Weekend last weekend, culminated by me reaching the Big 40.  My wife and I headed over to the west side of the state, dropped the kids off at the Worlds Greatest Nana's house, and proceeded to party like it was 2002.  We spent a night in the suburbs, then a day and night in Seattle, before swinging over to visit some of our friends on the Kitsap Peninsula for a  nice group dinner and an evening of karaoke.

It was a pretty great weekend.  I mean, the things we did were fun(and several of those deserve posts of their own, like seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, Seattle Underground Tours, TheatreSports), but more important, the bout of melancholy that I expected never really showed up, and I think that is because, other than 5 years less sand in my hour glass...things are better than they are when I turned 35.

My job, while not 'better', is more family friendly.  The girls, while they were great little girls, are turning into great people.  The house is doing good, and we might actually get some fruit from our trees, and good vegetables from the garden, which I was able to work on improving, after deciding it was big enough and didn't need more expanding.

As for my wife and I...the last 5 years have been good to us both.

That was 5 years ago in Vegas, versus this last month:

Obviously, I still have more progress to make than my wife...but, given my wife as motivation, by my 50th Birthday we might look like this:

picture from the daily mail


Strike that, reverse it.

Instead of getting my wife some flowers that will just die for Mother's Day, we decided to take some time out of the weekend to go look at some flowers, courtesy of the fine folks at Puget Sound Energy, who offered guided wild flower tours of the Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility

I am one of the first people to poke fun of the Eastern Washington landscape, which for 9 months of the year is 50 shades of brown...but, during the spring and early summer, we do get some green, and then beautiful pops and seas of color as the wild flowers of the Shrub Steppe bloom. 

Western Mountain Aster


It wasn't all just pretty flowers...there was also some education involved.  The Wild Horse Wind Farm occupies over 11,000 acres(with the actual mechanical footprint being just over 150 acres) and PSE tries to do some good outreach on the site.  There is a nice little visitors center, and in addition to the guided wild-flower tours, you can get recreation permits for free hiking, or tours of the actual 350 foot wind turbines.  I'm not always a fan of the wind farms and the way they break up the great outdoors, but after getting a close up look at the facility, I can see that the mule deer and elk don't seem very disturbed by the big white trees. 

The variety of flowers was nice.  We missed the beautiful purple lupine that grows, but we caught the sulfur lupine(more cream/light yellow) in color...but what really surprised me was the variety of buckwheat(not the grain).  There are something like 5-6 different varieties, with thyme buckwheat having the most interesting flowers.

As pretty as the flowers and the view were, the real reward was getting to spend the day with my wife and kids.  At one point, two tour buses full of students from CWU pulled in, and I kept giving my wife grief that she had better go hide before she got mistaken for one of the college girls.



70 years ago today, the end of the 3rd Reich was complete, as German forces officially surrendered  to allied forces in Berlin(they wouldn't surrender to the Soviets until the next day due to their not being an appropriate Soviet official available to accept the surrender). 

From stats I can find, they estimate that roughly 183,000 American's died in the North Africa/European Theater(for comparison, the United Kingdom lost roughly 300,000 in Europe). 

As a Navy guy, I tend to think the War in the Pacific when I think WWII, which is reinforced by my Grand Father's experience in B-29's, but...the war in Europe was not all Patton riding to glory. 

Estimates state that there are less than 1,000,000 WWII vets left(855,000 per the National WWII museum web site).

Makes me want to go cruise through the local restaurants today to see if I can find one to buy them breakfast...


Look at that!

Wow...I actually remembered my password.  It's been like two weeks...sorry.  There just hasn't been anything to post about that has been more important than other stuff I had to do. 

Last weekend, we got to do some fun science related stuff.  My older daughter has been taking a STEAM workshop, and all semester they have been working towards a big project...launching a weather balloon. As part of that, they have been designing and shock proofing 'instrument packages'.  Some kids had cameras, some kids had thermometers to track temperature gradients, and some had barometers. 

The time had come to launch them, which meant being on site at 7AM in a mystery location.  It was a mystery location because the PhD that was selflessly volunteering his time to lead the project had to use a couple of neat atmospheric prediction websites to plot the path we wanted to balloon to take.  It had to be reverse engineered...we were much worried about where it came down than where it went up.  We had to do our best to avoid it coming down in an area criss-crossed by power lines, or into a wind farm.  So...we basically had to wake up Saturday morning and wait for a phone call about where we were going.  Luckily, it was only about a 45 minute drive west of the house, which was going to allow the balloons to hopefully end up East North East of the Tri-Cities, in  some poor farmers field.

I was pretty impressed by the scale and scope of everything.  I had no idea that these balloons were supposed to go up to 85,000 feet plus before they finally popped and started coming down. Likewise, I had no idea that it takes almost 40 minutes for an instrument package on a parachute to fall to earth from 85,000 feet, and that we would have to chase said balloon over 70 miles.  It kind of felt like the movie Twister...running around on back dirt roads trying to find the best path to where the GPS unit was telling us that the balloons were coming down.

Finally, I didn't realize that 85,000 feet was high enough to get a picture like this out of a Go Pro Camera.


It's a start.

When I got home from work yesterday, I swung out to my garden beds to do a little more thinning of the radishes and turnips...but instead of thinning, I actually ended up doing some picking.

I didn't realize how big that radish was going to be until it just kept coming up. 

The turnips are not there yet.  Plenty of greenery, but none of the roots I've had to thin out show any swelling yet.  Of course...that is why I am thinning them out.


Worth the wait.

One of the more difficult things about canning certain items, such as pickles, and salsa, is that they need to sit for a while to reach their full potential, so...it's a leap of faith to some extent.

Earlier this week, I made a tasty omelet for dinner, and decided that the time had come to pop open one of the jars of Roasted Salsa Verde I canned up back in early November. 

I was pretty impressed.  I am definitely planting some more tomatillo's this year, and trying to at least double the batch of this that I can make.  I can also pump up the heat a little bit.  Last year, instead of all  jalapeno's, I used Anaheim's and Pasila Peppers, going for more fruity flavor instead of heat. I'll probably continue to split varieties, I'll just add a few more jalapenos.


Ripley said it best.

Dust off and nuke the site from orbit.  It's the only way to be sure.

If that was my house I would move out faster than the family from Poltergeist. 


I blame the chickens.

Several weeks ago(like, so early that I was embarrassed to admit it while 2/3rds of the country was still covered with snow), I threw some seeds into one a few of my raised beds.  A few days after that, the chickens darted past my daughter one day when she was trying to feed them, so, rather than round them up, we gave them a free day to play in the nice green yard.  Of course, the yard wasn't good enough for them, so they also decided to get into the garden beds, and made quite a mess out of the one I had planted in.

Rather than start from scratch, I just decided to rake it all flat again, and see what happened once it warmed up some more.

Well...I've gotten a pretty good turnout from my seeds.

Now...when I planted these seeds, on the right side of this box there were two nice, STRAIGHT rows of turnips.  The left side was supposed to be two nice STRAIGHT rows of radishes and carrots planted together.  The theory there is that the larger radish seeds make it easier to plant the carrot seeds, and then the radishes are ready to harvest before the slower starting carrots get too far along.

We'll see.  The totally random nature of this bed has made thinning a major pain, but even that keeps the chickens happy...they love the young radish, turnip, spinach and kale greens I give them from thinning things out.

In the bed behind that, I had to panic and spend money to install some netting/trellising for my snow peas.  I just haven't had the time to go run a bunch of twine and rope for the peas to climb, so instead I bought some 'garden netting' for more money than I should have spent.

I think I just need to keep my eye out for someone getting rid of old soccer netting next time.  And yes, this bed needs some serious weeding.  There are also 4 overly optimistic 'Hey, there are on sale for $2.00' early tomatoes in this bed.  If all 4 survive, one might need to go away to make enough room.

Yeah, the chickens hate that too. 


String them up.

I have gone out on the occasional limb around these parts, and in the real world, defending people with somewhat questionable hunting practices.  We all have our own lines, and if you are willing to cross more of them for 60 pounds of venison than I am...bully for you, I guess.  It's kind of like different people going different amounts over the speed limit...Risk vs. Reward.  For me, as much as I enjoy venison, I'm not willing to risk losing the ability to hunt for multiple years just for a few burgers worth of meat.

Then, there are unforgivable acts of poaching...like what happened around Walla Walla this weekend. 

Officials hunt Walla Walla County deer poachers

Someone drove around Friday night, and dropped 8 deer...and did nothing with them(and yes, if the story said that the back-straps had been cut out, I would be at least a little less mad....stupid, I know...but...that's me...still 'lock them up' mad...just not homicide mad).

There is no challenge here...I've been driving around hills of Walla Walla and seen hundreds of deer.  Shooting 8 in one night made someone feel macho? 

 Lame, Lame, Lame.  No excuse, and no mercy.


We are a good team.

My wife took the bowl of funky plant/rocks that I gave her for her birthday and took it to the next level.  It's amazing how much some tiny pebbles and a few pretty rocks can make things better.

It's a good pairing...I do the dirty fingernail jobs, and she does the finishing work.


Mission Complete

A few weeks ago, I started a project I had been putting off for 18-months or so...putting in a strip of lavender along the walkway up to our front door.  Working around rehearsals and shows and work, I finally got the job finished yesterday, which is not a moment too soon, as today is my wife's birthday!

Okay...so it doesn't look like much now...but, the lavender is still small, and not blooming.  A confession would be that I did want to put in more plants, but the majority of stuff for sale around here right now is Spanish Lavender, not the Provence Lavender that my wife wanted.  Those six plants represent 2 hours of burning gas, visiting 8 different stores/nurseries.  They will get bigger...stand by in a few months for pictures when they are blooming. 

That's not all I planted for my wife.  While looking at lavender varieties last week, one of the local nurseries had 'mimicry' plants in stock, and my wife had thought they were the neatest/strangest plants she had seen, so of course I filed that away, and picked some of them up during my lavender hunt yesterday. 

Faces only a mother could love.


Long Week

Yup..been busy, busy, busy.   Opening nights for the production of Cats that I am in is TONIGHT, which means this whole last week has been full dress rehearsals...makeup included...meaning I was at the theater from 5pm-10pm each night.  Luckily, my route to the theater takes me past my house, so I at least to swing through the house for a peck on the cheek, otherwise I would not have seen my kids AT ALL the last week.

At the beginning of the week I looked like this in my costume:

By the end of the week, I looked like this:
The worst part of this is that when I showed my wife this picture, she had NO idea who Bill the Cat was. 

Oh well...that's what you get for having this for dinner all week.



We always used to joke that NAVY stood for Never Again Volunteer Yourself...so it's  kind of ironic that I am 'hair on fire' busy right now, and it's all stuff I volunteered for.  Mostly one thing...CATS. Less than a week until our opening night, and the rehearsals are getting long and intense. We started on the actual set and wearing costumes this week...makeup starts Monday.

I do have one advantage...the route from work to our performance venue takes me by my house, so I do make sure I forget something each day so I can swing in to give  the wife and kids a peck on the cheek.

So...since I haven't had time to develop an opinion on anything this week, I'll just embaress myself by posting costume pictures! They will look much better with the makeup...maybe I'll make folks suffer through those as well next week.

This is Gus...the Theater Cat, a sad broken down cat trying to have one last taste of glory.


This is my Bustopher Jones...the fat cat about town. 

My wifes says it looks like I was eaten by a sofa...and that's how it feels.  I'm wearing a lot of padding under that suit, and the outer suit itself is basically a carpet someone sewed into a circle and added arms onto.  It weighs about 35 pounds.

God Bless Febreeze.


As You Wish.

Been an active last few days around here between Girl Scout Cookie Sales, and CATS rehearsals, and the 'ARGH...it's 75 degrees!  Summer is almost here, need to get some yard work done before it is too hot!' knee-jerking I've been doing.  On top of that, my 14th Wedding Anniversary was yesterday, so I've been trying to work in some time with my wife this weekend, too.

For our fancy date, my wife and I went out Friday night to a local Japanese Steakhouse, Fujiyama's.  Due to one of our daughters friends having a birthday party Friday night, we didn't make our reservations until 8pm...so when the party wrapped up early, we had a chance to slide in a visit to Cheese Louise, where they do free wine tastings every Friday night.  In this case 'free' meant it only cost me having to buy a cheese plate for the wife and I to nosh on, and a bottle of Martinez and Martinez Pinot Grigio.  Money well spent, causing my wife to ask when we turned into grownups, where wine and cheese replaced beer and nachos(not that I still don't dig me some beer and nachos).

Dinner itself was good.  Fujiyama's does all the same 'Japanese Steakhouse' things they do everywhere...knife tricks, flipping shrimp onto plates, FLAMES!  My wife had the Hibatchi Salmon, I splurged and went with a fillet/shrimp combo.  Yummy.  My wife said that her salmon was the best she had had since we moved to the Tri-Cities...I tried some and agree. 

Saturday, our actual anniversary, we spent at home with the girls, doing pizza and a family movie night.  This week we decided the time had come to introduce our daughters to the magic The Princess Bride.

I think the kids really liked it...they were very into the story...although what really got to my older daughter was the 1987 era video game Fred Savage was playing at the beginning of the movie.  They aren't running around quoting it yet...but if I make them watch it another 4-5 times this week, they might get there.


Yes, Please. Like...Yesterday...times 2.

My geek cup runneth over today with good news this morning.

First, there is this:

Live-Action Robotech Will Be a Full Franchise at Sony.

Hoorah.  A live-action Robotech movie has been kicked around Hollywood for decades, but the rights to it have always been tied up between Harmony Gold and several Japanese Studios...but now things appear settled for Sony to grab the ball and run with it. This is going to be one of those ones where reviews don't matter...count of me being there opening day.

Then, also from www.io9.com, we have this drop dead sexy picture of Ryan Reynolds in his official Dead Pool costume.

I am very excited for this movie...mostly because I am the target audience. This movie is for my generation of comic book fan who got excited to see Ryan cast as Wade Wilson in the Wolverine: Origins movie, and then suicidally depressed with the way they treated the character. 

This is a sign that the wheel of karma will turn if you wait long enough and live a good life.